Act I: The Ship in a Bottle Job

Act I: The Ship in a Bottle Job

Act I: The Ship in a Bottle Job

Scene I: Life of the Party

June 15th, 2072, 7:05 pm
Party Ship Excelsior

It had been a slim couple of months since that night the bar. Lilly had been successfully introduced and integrated into Null Sect. Reasonance had even managed to find her a suitable mentor, freeing him up for running and the occasional social visit. Unfortunately, Lilly's newly found acceptance was the one bright spot in an otherwise dismal couple of months. Though the strange commlinks had continued to spit out random tasks, none of them were exactly high paying jobs. In point of fact, the team was running low on money and in desperate need of work.

Things were looking dire when fortune smiled on the team. One of Lilly's old team members had reached out with a posh security job, a job that Lilly didn't feel like accepting herself. Instead she'd offered it to the team as a gesture of her gratitude for their help. Proof positive that sometimes karma worked in a positive manner.

Which is why they found themselves on a posh party boat that was hosting a floating dinner party for a bunch of bigwig corporate executives and their high priced wives and escorts. The team had been hired as security consultants and tasked with ensuring that nothing went wrong during the party. The pay was a cool 10k nuyen apiece, with a 5k bonus per member if none of the guests noticed anything wrong. A boring but highly lucrative milk run that mostly involved looking bored and putting up with all of the corp suits.

Each team member had been given an account with Zoe to ensure that they were dressed respectably - just another perk of the job. Fake SINs and documents had also been supplied, setting up each runner with a suitable alias that would allow them to blend in with the party guests. The entire process had been mostly painless and the Johnson had been most accommodating with their requests. In his words they were to "keep an eye on things while blending seamlessly into the party. No one can guess that you're there to make sure things go smoothly."

It wasn't exactly exciting, but it was work.


Kvasir straightened his bowtie in the reflection of one of the boat's many polarized, bulletproof windows. One of his cufflinks had started blinking a few minutes ago. Kvasir had no idea what it meant or how to turn it off. He discretely poked and twisted it until it it flashed brightly, then shut off. A puff of synthetic pheromones emitted from his collar, making him scrunch his face in disgust. Anyone else wouldn't have noticed the chemical cloud, but to Kvasir's sensitive nose, it felt like he'd just walked into high school locker room after the homecoming game went through two overtimes. By Njord's salty whiskers, what a stench. I hate fashion. This mass-produced musk doesn't even work, everyone knows that. I suppose it has some placebo effect on the foolish.

He recovered his composure, but there was no getting past the fact that he was a more than a bit uncomfortable with the whole situation. The formal clothes weren't a problem for him; he could tie a double windsor in his sleep. He sounded like a pro ordering a cocktail and he knew how to eat the most exotic of hors d'oeuvres without getting any on his lapel. It was all the whiz bang technological accessories, he'd never had the time, money or inclination to keep up with these things.

Nor did he need them, really. As far as he was concerned, most of the things they were designed to do were better done with spirits. The authorities weren't nearly as good at tracking astral trails as they were at tracking digital ones. He'd have summoned a spirit to have on call if the party had started right before sundown. Very inconsiderate of his employer, he thought, and he wasn't about to waste his last batch of binding materials without knowing they were necessary. Maybe not the best call, but things had been pretty tight before this job, he thought to himself as he turned to scan the crowd whilst swirling the cherry around his bijou cocktail.

Kvasir knew he was a general liability for undercover work, but the current situation was about the best he could hope to land in during such a job. Swimming through the swarm of megacorp sharks, the aura that often made children cry and dogs bark in his wake only served to help him blend in. He'd used part of his expense account on polarized contacts, making his eyes seem a simple dark brown as long as he didn't get too excited. Reasonance had assured him that they didn't light up noticeably when he was assensing, but he was trying to be careful nonetheless. As nobody seemed to be paying attention to him at the moment, he switched his perception to the astral plane and scanned the crowd.


Reasonance watched as his typically off-putting companion straightened his bowtie, surveyed the crowd, and then allowed his shoulders to relax slightly - he knew the telltale sign that Kvasir had gone astral. Judging by the bowtie and fancy drink, it seemed to Reasonance that Kvasir had, perhaps, freshened up his spy skills with a few vintage Bond movies. He itched at his neck, first with a finger prying past the stif, high-collared shirt made of woven ballistic fibers and synthasilk of a lucious plum color, then with the pressure from his jaw once he realized how fidgety he looked.

The ability to sense his drones along the different images of his tattoos helped Reasonance from continually diving into and out of VR. They were there, scanning inconspicuosly, at distances which allowed the night to cloak their pressence. The fact that Reasonance self-taught himself how to reprogram the alarm warnings of drones to trigger physical stimuli was a source of great, secretive pride. Not a secretive pride that abstained him from bragging about it, but it did keep him from sharing the secret.

In an effort to cover the team's ass from the get, Reasonance originally placed a microdrone at a spot where a mugshot of each guest could be taken as they came aboard. Those images were already sent to Zahid to help fill out the dossiers he was undoubtedly collecting. Any hacker or techno worth their salt kept these files as protection - most of the files were deleted after the fact, or at least archived for all of eternity, which was almost long enough to protect your drek.

So far his cover had been working pretty well, with a basic background as an up and coming food critic attached to his SIN and comm. He stayed near Kvasir while he was disconnected, but kept enogh distance to not become associated with him.


Unlike the others Vegas' greatest problem was resisting the urge to break-out the magic tricks. He'd worked cruise ships for a few months before hitting the big time. Old habits died hard. Besides that small inconvenience he was happy to have caught this gig; he loved cruise ships, loved their size and grandeur, the pomp and ceremony. It felt a little like Vegas, and he had to admit, he missed Vegas.

His cover for the evening was an up-and-coming manager from a hydroponics R&D lab. That was the best bit about R&D: no-one expected you to do more than drop interesting titbits, you didn't really need to know that much. Besides, he 'was' a manager, and no-one really expected managers to actually do anything. He'd brushed up on juicy corporate gossip as soon as he'd heard about the job, had even made up some reasonable-sounding 'facts' himself. All the better to help the conversations flow.

His job as he saw it was to keep an eye on people's behaviour. Kvasir had the whole magic thing covered. Reasonance no doubt had a million drones on hot standby. Vegas' job was to be socially vigilant. He knew how to spot nervous people in a crowd, he could identify a fake drop or pass-off from a mile away. If anything was to go down, and more than one person was involved, it was his job to spot the physical signals; with the prevalence of electronic security around these days it was perhaps surprising how often people fell back to the basics, and for good reason. Without someone like Vegas around to spot it, it worked very well.

So far Reasonance had spotted anything too far out of the ordinary. His drones were functioning just fine, as were the internal ship sensors. For once the technomancer hadn't had to break into the cameras: he and Kamal been provided with full digital access to the ship's sensors upon boarding. Evidently their skills had preceded them, for both Reasonance and Kamal had been informed that they'd be responsible for all of the digital security on the boat.

So far there hadn't been much to do. The system was top of the line and the ICE was top grade. Both 'mancers had full access privileges for the duration, making their jobs a whole lot easier. All they had to do was pay
I'd like both Reasonance and Kamal to make Computer + Analyze tests.
moderate attention attention to the system at this point.

Which wasn't to say that either technomancer was lacking in something to do. There were dozens upon dozens of highly secured devices on board the ship for the curious. Of course breaking into any of them was strictly against the terms of their employment, but that hadn't stopped a good hacker before. There was doubtless tons of juicy information available from the unwary.

Vegas also had his share of interesting subjects for the evening. Most of the guests were pretty boring corporate types out for a night of excitement, but his trained crowd sense had already begun picking out potential problems and persons of interest.

The first was a stunningly beautiful human woman in an LBD. Her cleavage was nearly spilling out and she was laughing merrily at the jokes of a handsome and unattached corporate executive. The way she touched his hand and licked her lips clearly yelled "gold digger" to Vegas. That itself wasn't a big problem, but there was something in her voice that put him on edge, as if her very words could make a man completely forget himself. Plus she was glancing around the party between laughs, clearly looking for even richer marks.

Then there was the completely average looking fellow playing with his commlink at a corner table. He was currently sitting alone, manipulating data while he sipped at a well-iced clear drink. He looked just the slightest bit annoyed, as if something in the office had called him away from a good time. Ordinarily that wouldn't elicit attention, but it was just too perfect and well rehearsed. Something told Vegas that this man was acting.


Early in the night, Zahid is taking the time to go over the Matrix security and guest list in private, before going out and being seen. To this end he's in one of the small bunks in the depths of the boat, reclining on a short bed with his legs crossed at the ankles and hands folded over his stomach, doing his best to look like a powernapping executive getting ready to socialize.

Mentally, though, he's quite active, making sure Reasonance's microdrone is putting the right people to mugshots, checking guest's social media streams for hints of possible problems, and listening to snatches of conversation through the security system. It's amazing the things people post or say when they think no one can hear them...

He's also doing his best to stream realtime information to the rest of the crew, bringing their attention to problems, advising them of potential issues, and filling in interesting bits about conversation partners.


Vegas smiled to himself. No doubt these pair were simply up to the usual corp skullduggery, and that would be fine with him, just as long as they didn't disrupt the party - and his payoff. Better to be safe than sorry though.

Hey guys, I got two possibles for you to keep eyes on. First is the babe in, or mostly in, that little racy number, near the bar. The one already calculating how to spend that suit's retirement funds.

Second is that guy sitting alone, playing with his comm. I think he's up to something. It might be worth checking his comm if you can do that without him knowing?


The one piece of technology Kvasir had gotten familiar with was the Exchange commlink. It was one of the few technological forms of communication he felt was fairly secure. Especially with Zahid watching the chatter. He came back to the mortal plane and nonchalantly looked at Vegas's message like it was an interesting stock report, then fired his own back.

Commlink guy is very suspicious. Commlink is just cover, he's doing some kind of technomancy, I think. His suitcase has some major mojo protecting it. I think we may need to peek inside. Reasonance, do you have any technological solutions that might work where astral ones fail? Or maybe a way to secure it safely away from the festivities? Zahid, what do we have on this guy?

The golddigger is probably just that, but we can't be sure. She could be a useful distraction. Vegas, any way to convince her that commlink guy is the mark she'd rather pursue? Something tells me his milquetoast appearance won't be an issue if his cred limit is high enough.

Other than that, we've got some wired up enforcer types and one high-caliber wage mage that is a wild card. Given the strength of the aura he's making no real effort to mask, I'm guessing he's spotted me by now and is doing a silverback dominance display. I'll let him think he's won this round, which he more or less has. We know anything about him?

The ship slowly cruised through the bay as the team started assessing the potential problems on the boat. So far things were pretty relaxed, as the ship had barely left harbor and folks were just settling into their first (or second) drinks of the evening. The mood was relaxed and cheerful, with just a small undercurrent of sleazy sex. There would no doubt be many couples slipping away into the private state rooms below decks.

As Kvasir put away his commlink the grizzled old wage mage boomed a laugh and then glanced over at Kvasir, quirking an eyebrow. The men beside him suddenly paused and followed the senior man's line of sight, until all of them were staring directly at the shaman.

Mr. Corporate Mage

"Hmm. You gentlemen said you weren't well versed in corporate enchantment, but I suspect I might have finally found a colleague who can understand my dilemma. What say you, sir? Care to join a few old men for drinks and some stimulating conversation?" The grizzled old mage smiled, a barring of teeth that was at once friendly and a direct challenge.


I'm not sure bringing those two together is necessarily a good idea. If the 'mancer is up to something though we need to know what it is. If it comes to it we can always separate him from his case. He could be perfectly innocent but one, I doubt it, and two, I don't really care.

I'm a little bit worried about all the players here but it's to be expected. Keep an eye out across all vectors. I want to make sure we don't have a secret team here. Other than us.


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